CHOICE urges GM food labeling rethink

CHOICE urges GM food labeling rethink

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Lax food labeling laws have made it almost impossible for Australians to avoid products with genetically modified (GM) ingredients should they want to, a consumer group says.

The nation’s supermarkets were full of foods with ingredients now likely to be derived from GM crops such as soy, corn, canola and cotton, says CHOICE senior campaigner Clare Hughes.

The list of foods that could contain GM ingredients included breakfast cereals, breads, cakes, biscuits, sauces, cooking oils, margarine spreads, confectionery, chocolate and snack foods, she said.

“When consumers see ‘vegetable oil’ on a label, they have no way of knowing if its GM canola or cottonseed oil,” Ms Hughes said.

“Glucose syrup, maltodextrin and thickeners used in everything from biscuits to breakfast cereals are often imported from the US where they’re made from corn, the bulk of which is GM.”

In addition, she said many of Australia’s meat, egg and dairy products could also come from animals fed GM feed, such as canola or soy meal, yet Australian law did not require this to be disclosed on the label.

A government review of food labeling laws is now under way.

CHOICE is encouraging consumers concerned about the labeling of GM foods to make their feelings known to the Food Labeling Review Panel.

“Our GM labeling laws were supposed to allow consumers so see which products contain GM ingredients,” Ms Hughes said.

“Instead we end up with a situation where most products that contain GM ingredients don’t have to be labeled as GM.”

She said while most scientific evidence suggested that foods containing GM ingredients were probably harmless, the lack of evidence of harm could not be interpreted as proof of safety.

There were also environmental and ethical issues around GM food that meant some consumers may want to avoid it, Ms Hughes said.

“You have a right to know if your food comes from GM crops or GM fed animals, directly or indirectly,” she said.

“The law should require full disclosure of any GM ingredients so that consumers have all the information they need to make a truly informed choice.”

The peak body for the nation’s supermarkets has dismissed CHOICE’s concerns, saying where they carried goods with GM ingredients there were strict labeling requirements in place.

“CHOICE has conveniently failed to recognize that for almost 10 years, strict labeling regulations have governed all GM foods and ingredients in Australia,” Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Kate Carnell said.

“Therefore, instead of unnecessarily scaring Australian consumers, CHOICE should be sticking to the facts about GM food labels and regulations.”

Ms Carnell said the regulations required food – including ingredients, additives and processing aids – to be labeled as genetically modified if DNA or protein from a GM variety was present in the final product.

“If there isn’t any genetically modified material present, then the product doesn’t need to be labeled,” she said.


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